These days it seems like people have a thousand friends without really having any friends at all.
I read an article in the New York Times recently that talked about this—about how sometimes the people we think are our friends aren’t really our friends, and vice versa.
Recent research indicates that only about half of perceived friendships are mutual. That is, someone you think is your friend might not be so keen on you. Or, vice versa, as when someone you feel you hardly know claims you as a bestie. —Kate Murphy
Add to that what I’ve heard my friend Bob say several times—that there are really only room for about 8 people around your deathbed—and I don’t know about you, but it leaves me with the question:
Who are my friends—really?
A few months ago I was going through a really hard personal time in my life. And I began to notice something. There was a key difference between the friends I thought were my friends and the ones who actually were my friends.
The difference was really simple.
The real friends just showed up. It was that easy.
One night I was feeling afraid, so called a friend and she came over and sat with me on the couch. We watched TV. We didn’t even talk about anything. But she knew I didn’t want to be alone, so she came over. Another friend showed up the morning of a big appointment and brought me my favorite coffee drink and gave me a pep talk.
Other friends checked in regularly on the phone or text message, just to see how I was doing. People sent cards and gifts.
Other people disappeared.
Quite literally. It was sort of interesting to watch it happen. If you’ve ever been through a divorce or gotten a terrible diagnosis or lost a family member, I’m sure you’ve experienced this. Some people are so there. They’re a phone call away. You practically can’t get rid of them.
Other people it’s just like… they drop off the map.
And to be honest, I didn’t think much of it at the time. I wasn’t lacking for support, so I didn’t really need those other people to show up. But when I reflected on it later, I just thought that was so interesting.
Actions really do speak louder than words.
You can talk all day about how much you care for your friends and how important they are to you, but if you don’t show up for them—if you don’t show your face at birthday parties and anniversary parties and random Thursday night dinners and wedding showers and baby showers and TV viewing parties…
They’re not your friends. You’re not theirs.
This is not a dig. It’s not even a shameful thing. Nobody needs to apologize for not being friends with everybody (after all, only eight people will fit around your deathbed). It’s just the truth.
And if we can’t tell the truth, we can’t love or be loved.
If you want to know if somebody loves you, it’s simple.
Do they show up—physically, emotionally, spiritually, practically? Can they show up for you when you need them the most? Or, do you constantly find yourself wondering where they went, and why they aren’t around?
Let me say this one more time: if you want to know the truth of a person, pay attention to his or her actions—more than his or her words.
Words are easy. Actions are where our truth lives.
Also, if you have a thousand people you call friends but you aren’t really showing up for them, can you cut yourself a break? Can you make a decision to stop spreading yourself so thin? Can you choose the eight friends you’d like to end up at your deathbed and invest more fully and deeply in them?
You’ll feel more loved and more connected and more at peace with yourself.